There’s a lot happening in the world right now and it’s hard not to be consumed by the relentless barrage of media articles. This is certainly unprecedented, and whilst we don’t know what to expect, it’s important to remain focussed on what’s ahead for us, both personally and professionally. We need to focus our energy on what we can control and lead ourselves and our teams through all of this uncertainty.
At Revium, the lights are on, and work is still going ahead for our CX consultants. As it is with all of our teams. The biggest change so far has been a shift to more remote working, away from a physical infrastructure. Call me old school, but I’ve always had a preference for face to face research, synthesis and collaboration where possible and believe it to be beneficial. However, of course that’s just not possible right now. There is a silver lining to all this though – and that’s been the push to pressure test tools for online testing, synth and collaborating. Others may have been doing it for some time, especially distributed companies, but I feel the broader industry is now kicking into gear and making the best of what we’ve got. And it’s good news - It works!
All our face-to-face meetings are now conducted virtually. This is pretty straight forward for everyone, so shouldn’t be much of a shock to the system. We’ve recently migrated to O365, so we’re utilising Microsoft Teams in amongst other trusty tools such as Zoom and Go-To Meeting. To ensure these virtual meetings are effective, we’ve been implementing some rules for all staff to follow:
- Test the tech beforehand to work out all the gremlins. If it’s a client meeting ask to have some time prior to the meeting to test audio/visuals are working on both sides to a satisfactory level
- Set a meeting agenda well ahead of time
- Work out ahead of time who will be notetaking during the meeting, or use a transcript service like Otter to make sure nothing’s missed
- Allow time at the end for debrief and discussion (formalise and allow for the water cooler chat)
For more useful tips on running meetings online, take a look at this list of dos and don’ts.
This is an interesting one. Workshops by their nature are ‘high touch’ and collaborative. They’re a great way to ensure everyone’s voices are heard, and effective for collaborative problem solving and ideation to generate robust ideas and to generally get things done. But we do need to find workarounds so that we can still allow for ‘facetime’. We’ve had to run a couple of virtual workshops so far, and this is what we’ve learnt:
- Send out a running sheet for the workshop to all participants on what to expect, the agenda, and any pre-work that is required. Pre-work can be especially good to frame thinking and get everyone prepared to hit the ground running
- Set up a time prior to connect with participants to ensure there aren’t any connection issues that need ironing out
- Icebreakers in general work great, but especially in an environment of a virtual workshop. Just make sure you find some that work well in a virtual setting!
- Use a digital collaboration tool such as Miro to allow for teams to work on activities and exercises at the same time
For more information read this article on virtual workshop tips!
This one is somewhat easier, as we’re used to doing remote testing as part of our standard services. We have always utilised on and offline research in different ways to maximise effectiveness. Remote user testing is useful where there is a requirement for efficiency or an inability to access that user group. It’s also easy to set UP - ask them to share their screen and hit record.
Exploratory research can be trickier, particularly contextual research where we want to observe the user in the natural context that they use a product or service. But this is where we can better utilise pre-tasks prior to the session to gather that valuable contextual data that can inspire ideas and identify say-do gaps. The tools we find useful are:
- Recruitment: Askable
- Testing: Zoom / Go-To Meeting
- Prototype: Invision or Figma
- Note-taking: For those who don’t have the luxury of an additional resource in the team, Otter is zhelpful for taking down notes.
Digital Collaboration / Synthesis
Usually we have the luxury of being co-located with nice synth boards and some tactile Post-Its to peel off and on repeatedly. While this is one of my favourite pastimes, it simply isn’t possible with a distributed workforce.
- Trello has always been a useful tool for us to plan and track our activities, and it’s a good source of truth for projects. You can add observations and insights as cards in a list, have all team members log into the board at the same time and let them drag around the cards and create new lists to uncover key themes.
- Something we're used to working with is Miro – it’s flexible enough to utilise for collaborative synthesis, and it’s been working well with a distributed workforce. You can replicate sticky notes and have everyone working on the same board and affinity map in a similar way to offline synthesis.
- Another alternative if Miro isn’t your jam is Mural. If you’re trying to weigh up the pros and cons of each, this is a useful article.
Managing a Remote Team Effectively
Another key part to all of this is managing your team effectively, and giving ‘facetime’ when required. For many it’s a bit of a shock to the system when suddenly working remote, when we’re used to being co-located in the office. Suddenly it’s not as easy to go and grab someone for a chat, or to pass someone and be reminded of a task we needed to do.
There’s also the risk of losing the social element of being in the office, and being able to grab a coffee together, or eat lunch together in the kitchen. We’re still trialling new things to help with all of this, because it’s still early days and it’s unclear as to how long we’ll need to spend running things in this way. Some ideas that we’re trialling include:
- Virtual check-ins and stand ups with the team over video conference are a good way to start the day. We’ve been doing a virtual stand up to have a quick chat about the plan for the day and any blockers. We also use Slack throughout the day for instant messaging, as it’s important to still feel connected and noticed. Don’t fall out of the loop and keep up to date with what everyone’s working on and how you can help.
- Make sure people are working set hours, and have rituals to provide structure and allow them to ‘switch off’, rather than blurring the lines between work and home life by working longer hours.
- Virtual coffee breaks allow time for bonding within the team, just in the same way that we would in the office
- A virtual weekly team lunch – we’ve decided we’re going to set a time each week to catch up for lunch online and hang out for a bit. We did it in the office, so why shouldn’t we do it online?
- We use Tacos on Slack as a way to give recognition and visibility to the great work everyone is doing, even if it is ‘out of sight’. Once they are given a certain amount of ‘virtual tacos’ by their peers, they can redeem them for real world rewards such as an Uber Eats delivery
- There are also a lot of general ‘working from home’ tips to be found on the internet!
So, while it all seems to be doom and gloom when we turn on the TV or the radio, let’s take a step back and focus on what’s in front of us. More than ever, it will be important for us to do our best work, so we can deliver successful outcomes in a challenging environment. Who knows… after this, maybe we’ll all be much more used to, and prepared for, a more modern and fluid way of working.